Last week LinkedIn announced an additional infusion of capital from strategic investors. The company has been around since 2003 and Bernard Lunn recently wrote an in-depth analysis of the LinkedIn business here on ReadWriteWeb. Most of us use LinkedIn a few times a week, yet almost no one is emotionally connected to the company. Isn't it strange that a brand which at its core is about connecting people, is rather bland and unexciting? LinkedIn as a company and brand has never paid attention to the human factor.

At first glance conservatism seems appropriate because LinkedIn is about business connections. Traditionally in America people have been unemotional about work - the office meant business only. This isn't the case any more. Being a big part of our social life, work is definitely emotional. Often we are friends with co-workers and we care about them.

Until recently LinkedIn's website resembled something circa 1994. The latest overhaul of the UI makes it more accessible and useful, but still not fun - it's dominated by links, not people. What if LinkedIn refocused? What if there were elements of entertainment, story telling and human feel to the whole experience? In this post we ponder how the brand could become more fun.

Hint at Humanity - the iPhone App

When the LinkedIn App for iPhone came out I was struck by how a minor difference in user interface represents a big difference in perception. On the website, the list of contacts is dull and hard to sift through. iPhone implementation leveraged the standard widget for scrolling through lists and was spectacular.

As names of my contacts flew by, my brain started reminiscing: Oh I remember this person? Man, that was a fun project! I wonder where this person is now?.

I was compelled to click on some entries to see people's faces, to check their resumes.

The playful iPhone UI made the same LinkedIn information much more engaging. It instantly brought into the spotlight the most interesting aspect of LinkedIn - the people.

LinkedIn as Entertainment

LinkedIn is a great business tool - you can use it to find jobs or suitable candidates. It's helpful for introductions and lead generation, but it underplays human aspects of business connections. If LinkedIn were more interesting and entertaining, imagine what it could do?

The opportunity lies in a better user interface, lending itself to more exploration. A visualization like the one PicLens provides would be great fun - e.g. the ability to see peoples timelines visualized, such as 5 previous co-workers now working for Apple. It's essentially slicing and dicing information that LinkedIn has, though in a way that is playful and useful.

In addition to playfulness, there's a sentimental factor here. Enabling people to tap into their memories and recall co-workers. Imagine a flashback - your job at Yahoo. Remember Jane, John, Kate and Mike? Here's where they are now. Jane and Mike are still at Yahoo, John is engineer at Google by way of Microsoft, and Kate is working for a startup in Colorado.

Will Entertainment Pay?

Would this sort of thing help LinkedIn's bottom line? Not directly, because people are unlikely to pay for such entertainment as they pay for other LinkedIn features. But the pages would surely generate traffic and bring CPM advertising dollars. Facebook grew big because of entertainment.

It's cool to see pictures of friends, to know what they're up to, and to stay in touch. By adding this human focus, LinkedIn could become 'cool' in addition to useful.

What do you think about adding the entertainment dimension to LinkedIn? Is this something you'd like the company to do? What other features do you wish LinkedIn had?